Shalimar Gonzales, YMCA District Executive, was recently elected the Community Roots Housing Board Chair. With 17 years of nonprofit experience, Shalimar brings valuable insight to the board, as well as a passion for housing and its discernible impact.
“Housing is tangible; some of the other things that are the symptoms of greater economic challenges are sometimes harder to fight or harder to figure out how to apply a system to it,” Shalimar said. “I wanted to be part of an organization that I felt like was on the cusp of something great, and I think that Community Roots Housing is there. So many organizations are just focused on building a building, but I think Community Roots Housing is interested in building the community that comes with the building.”
Shalimar has been on the Community Roots Housing board for almost 3 years and describes herself as a generalist.
“I think part of being someone that works in nonprofits is this ability to be very nimble and to be fairly relationship-based,” Shalimar said. “That’s the lens that I bring to a board that has so many skill sets in finance, in the corporate housing sector, or even in other affordable housing. Having someone who’s a generalist brings a scope of humanity to things, a scope of relationship and community engagement. Some of the questions that I tend to ask at board meetings are around equity, and I really try to focus on the mission.”
Shalimar’s goals as board chair are largely the same as the goals she has for any group she is involved with – increasing the sustainability of the organization.
“When I’m done with my board term, if there’s one thing I hope to say it’s that we have figured out a model that allows for us to sustainably build housing – that we’ve figured out a model we can replicate internally, and we get to drive where housing is put, what it looks like, etc.”
Shalimar also hopes to increase Community Roots Housing’s co-creation efforts. Referencing the partnership with Africatown Community Land Trust on the Liberty Bank Building, Shalimar expressed her desire to work with community partners, lending housing expertise where possible while learning from the other organizations.
Shalimar believes she and CEO Christopher Persons have complementary traits that result in a productive rapport.
“I’m fortunate in that Chris has a great deal of trust in me and I in him,” Shalimar said. “I think we have a really great synergy in how we cultivate relationships and approach decisions. At times, we’re a bit yin and yang, so I think it’s a great marriage in that Chris has the operational expertise and then I bring in the equity side of things, community engagement, and some government advocacy work.”
In her free time, Shalimar can be found spending time with her wife, stepdaughter, and dog in South Seattle. Although she is a self-professed CrossFit addict, she urges people to reach out to her anytime.
“If people have feedback, if they have comments, questions, I’m always available to talk,” Shalimar said. “I’m happy to lend an ear, respond to an email, however folks wants to reach out to me, they should do that. I want people to know that I think of my role as an observant leader, so I am truly in service to the organization, to our residents, to the staff, and to the community.”